Having acquired the recently launched MAXIMUS VII GENE motherboard from ASUS, we are now turning our attention to their Z97 DELUXE. The Z97 DELUXE is the flagship motherboard in ASUS’ mainstream series based on the Intel Z97 chipset. It is engineered with all the latest Z97 chipset features, including the M.2 and SATA Express storage connectors for lightning-fast transfer speed, supports for Devil’s Canyon processors and the upcoming Broadwell processors, Intel’s Smart Response Technology (SRT) support for Solid State Hard Drives (SSHD) and Device Protection with Boot Guard.
Being a high end motherboard with premium features, ASUS gives the Z97 DELUXE a total of 16-phase DIGI+ power design with 5K-hour rated Japanese-made capacitors to drive the processor and memory overclocking, Dual Intelligent Processors 5, Crystal Sound 2 for high quality audio system, dual Gigabit Ethernet for wired connectivity, Bluetooth V4.0 and 802.11ac Wi-Fi for wireless connectivity as well as multi-GPU SLI and CrossfireX support. To assure the quality of the Z97 DELUXE, ASUS implemented SX Protection involving compatibility test with more than 1000 devices and over 7000 hours of validation. Let’s find out if the motherboard’s performance is enough to warrant the RM 1,299 fee.
Product Link: http://www.asus.com/Motherboards/Z97DELUXE/
Suggested Retail Price: RM 1,299
The ASUS Z97 DELUXE is packed in a black retail packaging with gold and white accents. The front side across the bottom left shows some of the motherboard features such as the support for Intel’s Core processor, Intel Z97 chipset, supports both NVIDIA’s SLI and AMD’s CrossfireX technologies, and DTS UltraPC II and Connect supports. There is a big picture of the circular chipset heat sink with “5-Way Optimization” wording around the center of the box.
The rear of the box talks the specifications and key features of the ASUS Z97 DELUXE, including the 5-Way Optimization by Dual Intelligent Processor 5, the redesigned UEFI BIOS, the Wi-Fi GO! which provides Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, Media Streamer for streaming songs from your PC on-the-go, gaming technologies featuring Turbo App, Crystal Sound 2, and TurboLAN. You will also see an awesome picture of the motherboard layout on the left of the box just above the specifications.
Opening the packaging’s flap gives us a glimpse at the motherboard, and reveals further details about the main features of the Z97 DELUXE. Here, ASUS explains about the Dual Intelligent Processors 5 with 5-Way Optimization as well as the benefits of the M.2 and SATA Express storage options.
Like any other ASUS’ mainstream Z97 lineup motherboard, the Z97 DELUXE comes in a chrome gold and black color scheme that replaces the shiny gold and black theme found on the Z87 boards. Personally, I prefer this diluted gold colour over the shiny gold because it gives a better contrast to the black and grey background. One of the first things that you will notice is that the Z97 chipset heat sink features a circular shaped design with white ASUS logo at its center, a brave move by ASUS from traditional rectangular or square shaped design. Featuring a standard ATX size PCB, ASUS utilizes the available board space to stuff in a plethora of high grade components that we will be talking more about these later.
The ASUS Z97 DELUXE features a DIGI+ VRM with 16+2 phase power design with state-of-the-art components mainly the high quality 5K-hour Solid Capacitors that have 2.5 times longer lifespan with excellent durability. These components are thermally cooled by the VRM heat sinks that have chrome gold and black matte finishes.
The top left portion of the Z97 DELXUE we have a Wi-Fi GO! module installed on a mini-PCIe 2.0 x1 connector. This connector shares bandwidth with the M.2 connector and PCIe 2.0 x4 slot. The 8-pin 12V CPU power connector, which supplies power to the CPU socket, is located on the upper left of the CPU socket. There is also a pair of 4-pin PWM CPU fan headers located near the top heat sink to connect your CPU cooler fans. The four DIMM slots are specified to run at dual channel configuration with support for Intel Extreme Memory Profile (XMP) and 32GB capacities. The memory slot latches have been enhanced with single-sided clips which mean that handling memory modules is easier and super secure. To the right of the memory slots we have the 24-pin power connector to supply power to the motherboard.
On the top right corner of the motherboard we can see the MemOK! button and EZ XMP switch. The MemOK! button comes in handy in case if any memory problem is preventing your system from booting. The EZ XMP switch forces the memory to run at XMP profile according to SPD specifications.
When it comes to expansion slots, the Z97 DELUXE has all the slots that you would need. There are a total of seven PCIe slots consisting two PCIe 3.0 x16, one PCIe 2.0 x16, along with four PCIe 2.0 x1 slots. The PCIe 3.0 x16 slots support quad-GPU SLI and 3-way CrossFireX setups. However, both slots will run at x8 when the second slot is occupied. Sitting below the chipset heat sink is the 10Gbps M.2 socket 3 connector. Formerly known as next-generation form factor (NGFF), M.2 is the replacement for the mSATA interface found on some motherboards. The bottom edge of the motherboard you can see the Thunderbolt header, BIOS Flashback and Clear CMOS buttons, Q-Code LED, Start and Reset buttons, the TPU and EPU switches, the TPM connector, a pair of USB 2.0 headers in which each header supporting two ports, a fan connector, and the front panel connector.
The TPU switch has two levels of performance tuning. The TPU I bumps the CPU multiplier up and the TPU II increases the base clock. The EPU switch actives the power saving feature to control the power efficiency of the motherboard.
The ASUS Z97 DELUXE comes equipped with the top-of-the-line audio chip from Realtek, the ALC1150 with 8-channel HD audio CODEC featuring Crystal Sound 2 technology with audio shielding, EMI cover, audio amplifier, unique de-pop circuit and premium Japanese-made audio capacitors. The audio section is isolated electromagnetically from the main board by a white coloured line to minimize unwanted noise produced by the neighboring components from affecting the audio quality. The front panel header and S/PDIF output header are located just below the group of audio capacitors.
ASUS includes a total of six 6Gbps SATA 3 ports and two 10Gbps SATA Express ports to the motherboard. Four of the SATA ports are natively controlled by the Z97 chipset supporting Raid 0, 1, 5, 10 and the other two ports are controlled by the ASMedia ASM1061 controller. The lower SATA Express port is controlled by the Z97 chipset whereas the upper port is powered by ASMedia controller.
The rear I/O panel comes with an HDMI port, a normal sized DisplayPort, an optical S/PDIF output, a mini DisplayPort, four USB 2.0 ports, six USB 3.0 ports, two Gigabit Ethernet ports for wired connectivity, Wi-Fi GO! outputs providing Bluetooth V4.0 and 802.11ac Wi-Fi for wireless connectivity, and six audio packs for 8-channel HD CODEC audio system. One of the USB 3.0 port located below the Gigabit Ethernet port is multifunctional and can also be used for USB BIOS flashback and USB Charger+.
Premium motherboards usually comes with a huge accessories package. You will get a detailed user guide manual, the exclusive feature guide, driver and software disc, an ASUS case badge, a total of six SATA 6Gbps data cables, a set of ASUS Q-Connector for the front panel connectivity, an stainless steel rear I/O shield that is 3 times more durable and corrosion-resistant than regular, an SLI bridge, and the dual-band Wi-Fi moving antennas. We are expecting a richer package, such as the SATA Express cable. So we hope that the upcoming SATA Express drives will come together with the cable.
The UEFI BIOS
The UEFI BIOS graphical interface has undergone a significant visual change. The layout design of the new UEFI BIOS is quite informative with the descriptions of every option displayed on the bottom of the screen. ASUS includes two modes for the UEFI BIOS that we have seen since a few generations of platforms ago, the EZ Mode and Advanced Mode.
The EZ Mode is easy to learn, use, and manage for users who do not want to spend the time going through the advanced sections of the BIOS. It displays frequently-accessed setup info. Users can choose system performance mode on demand and also drag and drop to set the boot priority.
The Advanced Mode is suitable for experienced performance enthusiasts that demand for more adept of tuning abilities for higher level of overclocking.
The AI SUITE III
ASUS AI Suite III is an intuitive central hub that provides access to the vast majority of ASUS monitoring and control utilities on the Z97 DELUXE. The utility offers a thorough control for the TurboV Processing Unit (TPU), Energy Processing Unit (EPU) to enhance energy efficiency, DIGI+ Power Control for enhanced performance, increased efficiency and optimum reliability, and Fan Xpert3 for unrivalled customizable fan control, allowing you to supervise overclocking, energy consumption, fan speeds and voltages. These are the main features of 5-Way Optimization driven by Dual Intelligent Processors 5.
Overall, the applications worked flawlessly in our tests. However, for overclocking you might not need this but instead, go for overclocking in BIOS environment or the included TurboV Core which is a light version of TurboV software.
Test Setup & OverClocking
We managed to push our i7-4770K processor to 4.6GHz and run stable in AIDA64 System Stability Test for about half an hour. The core temperature hit 86 °C maximum with 1.3V vCore supplied. The voltage consumed was slightly lower than the value we used on the ASUS MAXIMUS VII GENE at the same CPU overclock.
The 4.6GHz overclock was taken into our benchmark tests in this review. At the same time, we picked a Samsung-based memory kit, the G.Skill TridentX rated at 2666MHz 10-12-12-25-1T, due to its performance efficiency along with the ASUS ROG Matrix R9-290X Platinum as our graphics card to handle the 3D benchmarks.
For these storage tests, we have also included the ASUS Hyper Express enclosure, which is internally powered by two solid state drives (SSDs) in raid0 mode, connected to the 10 Gbps-capable SATA Express port on the ASUS Z97 DELUXE. The benchmark results showed that the SATA Express interface is able to surpass the sequential transfer speeds that current 6Gbps SATA 3 SSD can reach. Any SATA 3 SSD is capped below 600 MB/s of transfer speeds but the SATA Express port can do more than that, reaching as high as 667 MB/s. The drawback of the Hyper Enclosure drive or the SATA Express port is that the 4K sequential speeds are subpar as compared to the SATA 3 SSD. It should be noted that the Hyper Express is just a concept product and by all means is not representing the upcoming SATA Express drives that have yet to hit the market. For sure the real SATA Express storage devices will be a lot faster than this.
During the tests, we were having problem running our SSDs connected to the ASMedia-controlled SATA 3 ports. For some reason the ASMedia controllers refused to complete running our benchmarks and ended up with some lock ups. A run of CrystalDiskMark confirmed that the ASMedia controllers were underperformed than it should be.
The game benchmark settings are listed in the table below:
The game titles selected demand GPU power over CPU power therefore in each test the difference is rather marginal. We didn’t test the games with the integrated HD4600 graphics iGPU because we believe that nobody is going to use it for gaming especially with the ultra-high quality texture used on these modern game titles. Normally with such a high-end motherboard you will most likely add a dedicated graphics card for better gaming experience.
The ASUS Z97 DELUXE has some overclocking problem with some memory kits such as the Hynix, PSC and Elpida BBSE-based ICs. It could be a BIOS issue or something else that we don’t know. With the memory voltage capped at 1.92V, we were able to get the Samsung kit running stable at 2800MHz 10-12-12-25-1T; but we believe that the score can be more efficient with some tweaking skills.
Samsung IC RAM: G.Skill TridentX 2666C10 2 X 4GB @ 2800MHz 10-12-12-25-1T
Thoughts & Verdicts
The ASUS Z97 DELUXE is available for RM 1,299, which is a premium pricing for a premium motherboard. It has almost everything that you might need to build a mid- or high-end gaming and overclocking rig. It is loaded with many awesome features such as high quality hardware components, multiple choices of storage ports, wired and wireless connectivity, multi-GPU support, great software package and excellent UEFI BIOS.
Performance wise the Z97 DELUXE did well in all our benchmarks in line with the performance of the Z97 chipset and Haswell processor. We were able to get our i7-4770K overclocked to 4.6GHz without a sweat with just a few simple tweaks. Memory overclocking could be improved with a better BIOS support and we are looking for the inclusive of memory presets like what we have been getting with the ROG lineup of motherboards.
Almost any product must have its own weaknesses and the Z97 DELUXE has no exception. It is reported that its ASMedia-controlled SATA ports are underperform than it should be. You might probably get your PC frozen during a large file transfer. We have reported this issue to ASUS but at the time of writing we were still waiting for a solution from their support team.
If you are currently having the Z77- or Z87-based motherboard, upgrading to a Z97 board will not give you a significant difference in terms of performance. But if you are looking for a future proved motherboard featuring the lightning-fast M.2 ports, the upcoming SATA Express storage devices, and support for Broadwell processors, this motherboard is certainly worth to be put into consideration.
Last but not least, we would like to thank ASUS Malaysia for making this review possible.
Performance/Price Value: 3/5
+ Good stock performance
+ Excellent CPU overclocking performance
+ Nice chrome gold and black colour scheme with good layout design
+ High quality components to give efficient power delivery
+ Multi-GPU SLI and CrossFireX support
+ Comes with a high quality Crystal Sound 2 audio
+ Included SATA Express and M.2 ports for storage
+ Included Wi-Fi GO! module for wireless connectivity
+ Included dual Gigabit Ethernet ports for wired connectivity
+ Included a huge software package including the AI Suite III
+ Intelligent UEFI BIOS
+ Informative user’s guide manual
- Expensive, overpriced in Malaysia
- Memory overclocking could be improved
- Subpar performance of ASMedia-controlled SATA 3 ports
- SATA Express cable is not included
- Slow boot time
ASUS Z97 Deluxe received Silver Award from OCDrift.com
Disclaimer: OCDrift.com gives out our own award based on the Hardware Performance, OverClocking Ability, Innovation, and Value as determined by the reviewer
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